HC Deb 21 January 1992 vol 202 cc183-4 3.35 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Bearing in mind the information given by my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) and the fact that the news did not come early enough to make a Standing Order 20 application today, I wonder whether, if an application is made for one tomorrow, you will give consideration to enabling the House to discuss this important problem in the mining industry?

Mr. Speaker

It should have been submitted today.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not a fact that for some time now there has been a policy of inspired questions being tabled deliberately with the object of stopping Opposition Members from putting genuine questions? Will you take this up with the usual channels, because it is making a farce of Question Time? You ought to intervene with members of the two Front. Benches to sort this out.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot be held responsible for the questions on the Order Paper, provided they are in order. I have no idea whether they have been planted, and I am not responsible for the answers that are given.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In seeking to maintain the quality of debate in the House in the period leading up to the election, is it appropriate or parliamentary for the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) to intimate that the Prime Minister has not got guts, which is tantamount to calling him a coward? I hope that it is not appropriate and that you consider that it does not lead to good quality debate.

Mr. Speaker

To paraphrase "Erskine May", moderation in language is the keynote to good order in the Chamber.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Now that you, Mr. Speaker, have declared that the election has begun, and as you believe in fairness—your job demands it—I have a solution to the problem of the Tories continually wanting to know all about Labour party policies. We have four Question Times each week. We will have our side on the Tory Benches for two days and their side on these Benches for the other two. Then they can ask as many questions as they like.

Mr. Speaker

That is an ingenious suggestion, but I think that I had better not give my personal views.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

We should move on. We have a very heavy day ahead of us.

Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) pointed out that 1,100 jobs are to go in Yorkshire. A substantial number of them are in my constituency. Therefore, in view of the fact that we cannot have a debate under Standing Order 20, will you prevail upon the Secretary of State for Energy to make a statement so that we can question him on the matter?

Mr. Speaker

I am sure that what has been said about this matter, of which I had no knowledge before 12 o'clock, has been heard by the Leader of the House.

I will take one more point of order. I call Mr. Kevin Barron, since he raised the matter.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The British Coal Corporation has got it down to an art now. Anything that it says about job losses is always said after 12 noon, when it is impossible to make an application for a debate. Indeed, it announced the closure of the Grimethorpe fluidised bed programme today, and the press release was marked "Embargoed until 1 pm".

Mr. Speaker

May I stop the hon. Member there?

Mr. Barron

They come in here and use the procedure—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Do I understand that the information came out after 12 o'clock? If that is the case, I would certainly consider an application tomorrow under Standing Order 20, but now we should move on.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has had one opportunity today. We must move on.